‘Women + War’
Through March 7. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays. $18-$23. Synchronicity Performance Group at 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. (Little 5 Points). 404-484-8636, synchrotheatre.com.
Bottom line: Something truly great becomes something merely good.
By Bert Osborne
Even as a shell of its former self, Synchronicity Performance Group’s “Women + War” is undeniably powerful theater.
Years in development, it’s an intricately woven series of scenes based on interviews with 50 Atlanta-area women (some natives, others immigrants from around the world). Their myriad recollections span time and place, but this much is the same: War is hell, regardless of one’s religious, political, economic or geographical circumstances.
My review of the company’s original 2005 staging of the play contained superlatives of a sort I rarely get to use — “magnificent,” “breathtaking,” “inspired,” “indelible” — in other words, an admittedly hard act to follow.
It might be just as well that, in a sense, Synchronicity artistic director Rachel May doesn’t really try to follow or simulate that earlier version. Her re-edited and remounted “Women + War” has been trimmed by an hour, and entirely recast. Shorter, however, doesn’t automatically mean more cohesive, and the overall quality of the new ensemble is less than it was.
May retains the stylistic flourishes that made the first “Women + War” as much a visual experience as an emotional one — most of them courtesy of lighting designer Jessica Coale (dig her flash of spotlights on Army boots), and Sabina Maja Angel’s elaborate video design (incorporating interview footage with the real women, intense “live-action” combat scenes, slide-show collages or montages, and one way cool downpour of lemon drops).
I don’t remember the lemon drops piece from before, but for every memorable new scene like that, other lasting impressions of the original show have been dropped: say, a roll call of women warriors throughout history, pitched in the style of a beauty-pageant parade of nations; a gem of a sequence about an assembly line of suddenly expendable Rosie the Riveters getting their pink slips; or, most shamefully, the climactic candlelit tableau that left you mesmerized.
While moving in its own right, this “Women + War” lacks the same heartfelt punch. Perhaps having seen the earlier incarnation of the show somehow desensitizes you to a few of the stories. On occasion, brief clips of the actual women, reflecting on events in their own words, leave a greater impact than whole segments performed by May’s six-member ensemble (down from nine in her initial staging).
Cynthia D. Barker, Teresa DeBerry, Pam Joyce, Eve Krueger, Maria Sager and Annie York are serviceable actresses, although they don’t always adequately distinguish between the sundry soldiers, nurses, CIA operatives, drug-cartel victims, reporters, refugees and suicide bombers they’re required to portray. Sometimes they affect foreign accents, other times not.
Make no mistake. Now as then, “Women + War” is ultimately invigorating and rewarding, if most highly recommended more on the basis of a first viewing than a second. Fans of the original could be disappointed, but what those uninitiated members of the audience don’t know can’t hurt them. They’ll be none the wiser about settling for something good out of something great.